Training camp opens today (physicals/media day), and one half of the dark cloud lurking over this awesome time of year in Leafland has been cleared up and squared away.
I can only see one potential “but” in yesterday’s good-value Kadri contract. An Adam Henrique or James van Riemsdyk contract (long term at a little over $4 million) might be the type of contract we wish we snagged Nazem on down the road. There’s no knowing if Kadri would be amenable to locking himself in long term at that low of a figure, however, and in the short term, with the cap dropping and the Leafs working with limited space, this 2-year bridge deal at sub-$3 million makes a ton of sense.
Kudos to Nonis on sticking to his guns here (and I mean really sticking to his guns), as this is a good deal in both salary and term. I wondered if Kadri would accept something like $2.9 million but agree to only a one-year term, sort of as a “see you for the big bucks this time next year” kind of thing. That the next Kadri re-up is staggered from the pending Phaneuf, Kessel and Gardiner (potentially Kulemin and Bolland as well) contracts, at a very cap friendly figure, is good news going forward, alleviating what could’ve been more added stress next off season.
Now let’s look into the roster options and cap space as it pertains to the Cody Franson situation. The Kadri contract is a relief, but the Leafs are not out of the woods yet.
The Leafs currently sit with $1,996,000 in cap space, if you include Trevor Smith and Korbinian Holzer in order to fill out a 22 man roster. Drop Holzer and Smith and you’re at $3.33 million with a bare minimum 20-man roster. That means the Leafs have $3.33 million to sign Franson and to fit in an extra forward. That last part is optional, but it seems that with two enforcers carrying 13 would be the wise thing to do. If the Leafs can convince Franson to take $2.5 million, a doubling of his salary from last season, they would have about $833,000 to either leave as wiggle room or to carry their 13th forward. $2.5 million seems a little ambitious, however.
Depending on how the competition plays out in camp, the Leafs could bury up to $925,000 in the minors with, say, Liles or Fraser going down, and carry only 6 defencemen (this is not ideal; the Leafs routinely carried eight last season). This also assumes Joe Colborne makes the team. It would be handy if he did, because Colborne’s $600,000 cap hit is the fourth lowest of any of the 46 players currently under contract with the organization. The perks of offering Colborne that one-way contract is the great value the Leafs should get if he’s playing on the big club.
It’s no mystery why Morgan Rielly has been checking out the Leafs’ capgeek page. There’s no getting around it; Rielly is going to have to wow the socks off of Leafs brass and force their hand on a demotion (burying a contract like Liles’) or a trade to include him on the big club this season.
All of these storylines and more will play out in the coming days and weeks. Hallelujah, hockey season is upon us.